Snow Days.

Let’s have a chat about snow days.

Every year from December until March, any mention of snow accumulation sets teachers and students a-flutter with glimmers of hope that maybe metro superintendents will call off school.

Let me be clear: I do love my job. Very much. In fact, most of the time, I’m at least 10% annoyed when school is canceled. I’m also fairly pessimistic about snow days happening. Legend has it that when Ms. Rowse says “We will totally have school tomorrow,” it’s a sign we won’t. When she says “Snow day tomorrow,” the weather dissipates and the sun shines.

But snow days are also a bit necessary for a few reasons.

  1. It keeps people off the roads. At the risk of sounding like a DirectTV commercial, when schools cancel, many other businesses and organizations then choose to cancel as well. This means fewer drivers, which means fewer accidents. Fewer drivers and accidents mean city plows can actually get roads treated for essential services.
  2. It keeps kids safer. Not every kid has a ride to school. In my own school district, budget cuts necessitated fewer bus routes which means more kids are walking to school. If it gets too cold or too snowy, keeping kids home really is in their best interest.
  3. It makes better teachers. Sure, our last snow day for me involved binging the PBS series “Victoria,” and you might say, “How does that make you a better teacher?” Here’s how: ever heard of decision fatigue? Teachers have it in spades by 9 a.m. How many decisions do I make in a given hour? Day? Week? Too many to count. So a bonus day off in which my only decision is “another episode?” actually makes me a better teacher in the long run because I get to take a break from the hundreds of other decisions I make in a given school day. (But truly, I spend time on most snow days refining lessons, reading, writing, and grading.)

Now, do I sometimes think we jump the gun a little on calling off school? Sure. Do I sometimes get frustrated with snow days because it gets in the way of the important work I do? Absolutely. However, I get equally frustrated when I see people criticizing both teacher/student snow day joy and the superintendents who make the call.

Take a moment and think about the superintendents who make the call to cancel school: if the weather doesn’t materialize, people criticize them for calling off school for no reason. If the weather does materialize, people criticize them for not calling off school–with the added bonus of a steady trail of students leaving school early so they can get home before the roads get too bad. Superintendents truly cannot win in making this decision.

But one last consideration about snow day frenzy: what does it say about the work environment when people are clamoring for an unexpected day off? If both teachers and students are giddy with anticipation at a day they won’t be burdened with expectations from various external sources, maybe those expectations are a bit too crushing? An extra, unexpected day to catch up on work, sleep, social life, or a day to just breathe is almost necessary for survival.

Perhaps instead of criticizing the joy and glee students and teachers express at snow days, a closer look at the reason for that joy and glee is a better use of time. Something to think about the next time teachers and students are gifted a snow day.

Which is today. Enjoy.

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